Monday, January 11, 2016

''s what your tits are for.'

When people would ask me if I planned to nurse, I'd say, "I'd like to," because even though I really wanted to, I knew that it might not happen. Most of the women I knew struggled with breastfeeding. Milk didn't come in. Nipples inverted. Oversupply caused near-constant mastitis. Babies couldn't latch. My own mother abandoned the practice a month in because, she said, I hurt her.

I wanted to breastfeed the Jellybean for a variety of reasons. There was the bond, of course. And I know that when it comes to nutrition, "breast is best." But also: it's free, where as formula is expensive.

So a couple of months before the Jellybean was due, Mr. Hope and I took a breastfeeding class at our local birth center. The teacher - who is literally known in these parts as "The Boob Whisperer" - started off the session by showing this video:

Really makes you want to "whip 'em out," doesn't it?

I'd met the Boob Whisperer prior to the class. At the suggestion of my therapist, Quirky, I had set up a prenatal counseling session with her - just one of the many steps I took to prepare myself for a successful breastfeeding experience. We talked about the size of my boobs and level of nipple sensitivity (high, for the record) and a bunch of other things that presented potential challenges. I left feeling empowered, energized, and ready to rock this breastfeeding thing.

I was so fucking naive.

I was able to put my baby to the breast about two hours after he was born. He latched immediately. It didn't hurt, as I'd feared. I felt a gentle tugging and my heart nearly exploded with love.

After that initial success, things started to go down south almost right away. The Jellybean started to fall asleep at the breast. He was a lazy sucker. I worked with three different lactation consultants in the hospital, and on Day 3 called to make an appointment with the Boob Whisperer once we were discharged.

He lost weight. A lot of weight. The pediatrician told us we couldn't wait until our originally scheduled appointment with the Boob Whisperer. We needed one immediately. When that didn't work out, I found a different lactation consultant, one who would come to your house and work with you there. We met with her the very next day, and I've had two follow-ups since.

None of it has helped.

I have spent hundred of dollars and countless hours trying to get my boy back on the boob. He just won't latch. Most of the time he'll take a couple of licks or even a suck or two and then start bawling. Sometimes he screams. Sometimes he will push my breast away. He's got no problem drinking what I pump, as long as it's out of the bottle. But offer him mommy's mammaries? No thank you.

You'd think I would've given up by now, or at the very least, accepted that if I wanted the Jellybean to drink my milk, it was going to be 100% by bottle. But no. I keep trying. I spend hours combing the Googles for something that will help. Something I haven't already done or purchased. Some magic key.

In that video, the women essentially say, "Yeah, it's hard. But if you keep at it, you and your baby will have this magical, rewarding experience." On message boards, the lactivists say, "Don't give up. Keep working at it and you'll get there."

But guess what? It's been 7 weeks and I'm no better off from where I started. Don't try to tell me I haven't given it my all, because I've given it that and then some.

I still have hope. It may be foolish hope, but so what? I have five more weeks before I go back to work. Five more weeks to get this boy back on the boob. If it doesn't happen by then, it probably isn't going to happen. And I'll just have to make my peace with that.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

light at the end of the tunnel.

So, um, eight weeks ago today I delivered a beautiful baby boy. And then promptly fell off the face of the earth until about five minutes ago.

The Jellybean's birth story is kind of epic, and I'll write about it in a separate post. But the elevator version is this: I had him via an "emergency" c-section (after laboring for more than 24 hours). Nothing went according to plan, and in fact, the whole thing was sort of terrifying. But none of it was quite as terrifying as coming home with this tiny little life for which I was responsible.

And I mean that literally, by the way - I started to have a panic attack when we put him in the car seat to go home, because hi, car seats are freaking scary. You have to make sure they're tight enough to secure the child properly, but not so tight your kid can't breathe. And when you're first using one, the difference between the right tight and too tight feels about as wide as a piece of dental floss. (To this day, I still like to load him into the car seat a few minutes before we leave, so I can make sure he's breathing before snapping him into the back seat.)


I wasn't prepared for how hard new parenthood would be. I mean, you kind of know going into it that you can never really be prepared, but Mr. Hope and I were woefully under-prepared. The first night after the Jellybean was born he didn't stay with us, because I was relegated to a high-risk recovery room. They brought him to me for feedings and then, afterward, they took him back to something referred to as "bridge care." The second night, after I'd been moved to the maternity ward and given my child for keepsies, the kid didn't sleep...which meant we didn't sleep either. He scream-cried for most of the night, pausing only when one of us would hold him. I got exactly one hour of shut-eye. This was after getting maybe two or three hours of sleep between my induction and when they surgically removed the kid from my womb.

That scream-crying was a preview of things to come. More on that in a bit.

During our hospital stay, the Jellybean started to lose weight. Like, a lot. More than the acceptable margin. Breastfeeding wasn't going so well, even though that first night he nursed like a champ. The longer we were there, the worse he got. I had to start expressing and pumping and feeding him with droppers and tiny tubes. The first night home, I wasn't producing enough and had to break down and supplement with formula.

If I thought I felt terrible then, it got worse the next day, when we had our first appointment with the pediatrician. The Jellybean had lost nearly 20% of his birth weight. Discovering this pretty much made me lose my shit. There was a hysterical phone call to my therapist outside a lab while Mr. Hope took the baby in for an emergency blood draw. An urgent appointment with a lactation consultant who came to my home and got us off the transitional feeder and onto bottles. We had to start waking the kid up every two hours for feedings, just to get some weight back on him. Plus, I was pumping around the clock, trying to increase my supply.

Sure enough, within the next five days, the Jellybean was almost back to his birth weight. Everyone was pleased and relieved. We were told to move to on-demand feedings, especially at night. Yay, us.

And then the colic set in. Big time.

The same week he turned one month old, the Jellybean had a night where he scream-cried from 6 p.m. until well after midnight. The next night, he started at 7 p.m. and went until nearly 3:30 a.m. The day after that I called the pediatrician for an emergency appointment. We couldn't get in with our doc on such short notice, but met with another one in the practice. We asked her if maybe it was reflux. Sure, the Jellybean wasn't spitting up a ton, but other symptoms fit. She told us it couldn't be that because he was gaining weight. Then she told me to stop eating chocolate and a bunch of other things they tell mothers of colicky babies to stop eating, like tomatoes and beans.

A few days later, we had another bad night. Five hours of scream-crying and a stomach that was distended, but only on one side. We called the pediatrician's emergency line at 10:30 p.m. and by 11:30 were told to take him to the children's hospital for an evaluation. There, two experienced nurses took one look at our kid and said, "Oh, that's reflux. That's exactly what that is."

At 3:30 a.m., an attending physician confirmed the diagnosis and gave us a prescription for baby Zantac. Later that morning, around 8 a.m., I filled it. Within days, we were dealing with a completely different child.

And now, two and half weeks later, the Zantac has reached full efficacy, and the Jellybean is finally starting to fall into an eat-wake-sleep pattern that's a little more predictable. He still won't latch onto my boob, and he still has some periods of fussiness, but they are so minor, comparatively speaking. It feels like we're finally moving out of survival mode and into...I don't know. Normal parenthood?

So, yeah. This is why I've been MIA.

Despite everything - the abject failure that is breastfeeding, the early weeks of relentless colic, the c-section incision that took nearly six weeks to fully heal - I feel like an incredibly lucky woman. Eight weeks ago Mr. Hope and I welcomed this perfect, bright-eyed little bugger into our family, and he is everything that is good and right with the world.

What more can you ask for?